Tweens: A Special Record Store Day Review

Apr 19, 2014

Happy Record Store Day everyoneToday is the day we celebrate our local independent music retailers - and Greater Cincinnati has some amazing ones.  

If you are downtown and are looking for some great local music then I recommend you seek out my friends at Rock Paper Scissors.  If your tastes are a bit more eclectic then Shake-it Records is probably for you.  But if vinyl is king of your collection you might also want to try out Black Plastic Records in Northside or Everybody's Records in Pleasant Ridge.  South of the river you can also find Phil's Records - which is where I started my music education as a young whippersnapper - and Torn Light Records in Newport for stuff you might not find anywhere else.

In honor of Record Store Day, I wanted to do a special review and I wanted to use this occasion to celebrate a local band that has completely exploded onto the world stage but who still have pride in their Queen City roots.  I'm talking about Tweens.

Update: Tweens will be performing a special Record Store Day show at Shake-it Records today (April 19) at 8pm.

It has been almost exactly a year since we had the pleasure of hosting Tweens for a special in-studio performance - and what a year it has been for them.  

It all really started at Newport's Southgate House Revivial.  In March, 2013, Jim Blase of Shake-It Records recommended that Tweens open for The Breeders at their Last Splash 20th anniversary show. From there it wasn't a great surprise that the Deal sisters would fall in love with Tweens as much as the rest of us have.  The Breeders asked Tweens to join them on their 2013 tour (as did Atlanta, GA's Black Lips) and they have been spreading the word of Cincinnati rock cross-country ever since.

Early in 2014, more accolades for Tweens came when they were awarded a CEA for New Artist of the Year by CityBeat, and when they were invited to play at this year's Nelsonville Music Festival.

The culmination of this meteoric rise for Tweens came when they signed with FrenchKiss Records in June and recorded their debut full-length album - produced by Eli Janney - which just hit the streets last week.

Bridget Battle (BB Tween) the 'leader of the pack' (an homage to Tweens love for 1960's girl-groups) has a snotty, bratty 'get stuffed' attitude in her vocals that genuinely plays well with the music.  She balances that with brash power-chord guitar play, soaked in reverb and fuzz-tone. 

On bass, Peyton Copes (Dabney Teen) plays with little flourish but still manages to show off his skills by simply always being right where he needs to be - serving as the bridge between melody and rhythm-section.

Similarly, without over-doing it, on both drums and backing vocals, Jerri Queen manages to portray style, energy and pure, undiluted fun.

Anyone already familiar with Tweens' work from their homegrown EP - the one that started this whole thing off - will recognize such proto-punk goodies as "Rattle & Rollin'," "Be Mean," "Bored in the City" and their cover of The Teardrops' "I'm Gonna Steal Your Boyfriend" which appears as a bonus track.

For the most part, in songs like "Don't Wait Up" and "Hardcore Boy" Tweens exercise variations on the theme that have propelled then thus far and do so with increasing maturity and development as a band.  "Stoner" begins to crack this mold by slowing down the tempo, getting a bit heavier and more somber and allowing the music to radiate, undiluted by vocals. 

"Forever" has a bit of a classic 80's bubble-gum pop feel to it and, in my mind, serves as a darker counterpart to Tracey Ullman's cover of Kirsty MacColl's "They Don't Know."

There are so many things I like about "McMicken" that it would be my favorite track on the album were it not for "Want U."  "McMicken" boils with young, angry vitality -- and there is a little something in me that appreciates the home-town nod.

I could write paragraphs about why I'm in love with "Want U."  In this track Bridget stands alone with her guitar - no bass or drums - and howls in aguish about missing love.  Chances are, her time spent with Kim & Kelly were heavily influential in this song because there is an intimacy and a charm to this piece that is similar to many of the tracks on The Breeders' Title TK.*

*When I first heard "Want U," I had to check the liner notes to see if that wasn't Kim Deal's voice I was listening to.

Call it chemistry, magic, alchemy or rainbow flying unicorns... whatever that great elusive intangible 'thing' it is that so many band seek - Tweens has it and they use it very, very well.

Tweens (the album) is available from iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and most major music retailers... but since this is Record Store Day, I recommend you hit up your favorite, local, independent retailer for a copy.